A Travellerspoint blog

September 2021

Isle of Wight

Route: Whitebrook - Portsmouth - Newport (IoW) - Portsmouth - Hove

semi-overcast 20 °C

JUNE 2021

After a very enjoyable week in the Wye Valley our travels took us east and back into England. Our destination was not mainland England but an island just off the south coast called the Isle of Wight.
We had planned to be on the island by mid afternoon but our ferry crossing got delayed so we didn’t arrive until 10:00pm. However, before that we had a leisurely start to the day, courtesy of our friendly hosts in the Wye Valley and an event free drive to Portsmouth. Portsmouth was where we would connect with our ferry to the Isle of Wight and with time to spare, dine out. We were joined at the restaurant by our travelling companion Rob and after dinner we all took the ferry together. A night crossing wasn’t what we had planned but it did show us a of both Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight at night.

Porstmouth Spinnaker tower

Porstmouth Spinnaker tower

The Isle of Whight Ferry

The Isle of Whight Ferry

Rolling hills of the Isle of Wight

Rolling hills of the Isle of Wight

Our accommodation on the Isle of Wight was a three bedroom cottage, in a rural setting and right in the middle of the island. We choose three bedrooms to accommodate two further friends during the middle of our stay. The cottage was surrounded by well kept lawns and bordered by trees and hedges. This was a perfect environment for local wildlife, which included regular visits from Red Squirrels and Rabbits plus an extensive variety of birdlife. We even spotted an Owl in the garden on two of the nights.

Local resident red squirrel

Local resident red squirrel

Hungry Red Squirrel

Hungry Red Squirrel

The itinerary for the island was a little different from previous locations. We planned to reign back the hiking a bit and spend more time visiting the places of interest on the island. A packed agenda was therefore put together taking account of the local weather forecast.

Our first day started off damp but improved later. A delicious lunch at the Garlic Farm was followed by a stroll around the coastal towns of Sandown and Bembridge. Whilst Sandown looked very run down under the every present dark clouds, Bembridge had a much more appealing quaintness.

Sandown Pier

Sandown Pier

The weather on the following day was much better, which was good, as most of our activities were outside. We started with the Model Village in the picturesque hamlet of Godshill and was impressed by the quality and accuracy of the modelling together with the ground maintenance.
With time to spare before lunch we took the opportunity to look around Godshill, then dined at a highly recommended veggie restaurant.

Modal Village

Modal Village

Modal Village

Modal Village

Energised by our lunch we were ready for more. Next stop was the ruined manor of Appuldurcombe House. Set on an elevated positions with stunning views all around you could quite imagine this to be an impressive residence at one time. Sadly, neglect and the ravages of time have taken its toll on this once grand building. The architectural quality is still there to be seen but the structure is now not much more than an empty shell calling out to be renovated.

Appuldurcombe House

Appuldurcombe House

Appuldurcombe House

Appuldurcombe House

With a bit of energy still remaining a walk up to St Catherines Oratory was next on our agenda. At one of the highest point on the Isle of Wight the views from this vantage point were extensive. You felt that you could see the whole island, although in reality only part of the south and west coasts, plus quite a lot of the interior, were visible.

St Catherine's Oratory, medieval tower build in 1328 as penance by a local landowner who had plundered church property

St Catherine's Oratory, medieval tower build in 1328 as penance by a local landowner who had plundered church property

The weather took a turn for the worse on the next day. This limited us to pick up our friends, Martyn and Jane, from the Ryde Hoverport

The Isle of Whight passengers hovercraft

The Isle of Whight passengers hovercraft

and all five of us indulging in a cream tea back at the Garlic Farm.

Cream Tea at the Garlic Farm

Cream Tea at the Garlic Farm

Fortunately the weather improved from then on, allowing us to get out and see more of what the island had to offer. Next stop was Osbourne House, Queen Victoria’s favourite residence. Covid restrictions meant that not all of the house was available to view but enough to get a feel for royal life in the 19th century.

Inside Osbourne House

Inside Osbourne House

Osbourne House

Osbourne House

The grounds of Osbourne House are extensive but the well laid path allowed us to see its most interesting parts. A path lead from the house to a private beach where Victoria would bathe. We assumed a carriage would transport the queen each way as it was quite a long walk. Once at the beach the queen would not just strip down to her bikini, but enter her bathing machine (a wooden caravan on wheels), change into her swimming costume and the whole contraption pushed into the sea. This preserved the queen's modesty and provided a changing room and a plumbed in toilet.  When she had finished her dip it was pulled back to the beach using a wire rope and winch.

Queen Victoria's bathing machine with a lady in period bathing costumes (photo from internet)

Queen Victoria's bathing machine with a lady in period bathing costumes (photo from internet)

Our return loop back to the house took us via the children’s garden. An area of period toys and a vegetable garden where the princes and princesses were instructed in the skills of horticulture.

It was now lunchtime so we took the short drive the town of Cowes. Cowes is at the mouth of the River Medina and spread over either side of its banks. We were aiming for the historic west side and needed to cross the river from east to west. To achieve this we used the “Floating Bridge”, a vehicular chain ferry which crosses the river. It only takes a few minutes to cross but is a fun activity all the same.

The floating bridge

The floating bridge

A look around the shops followed by lunch, then it was back to the cottage to relax before dining out that evening (a scrumptious meal at the Pointer Inn).

We awoke the next day to bright sunshine, ideal for our visit to the “Needles”. After a short drive but a long queue to get into the carpark, we started our cliff walk to the famous landmark. The Needles (see below) are a row of three stacks of chalk that rise about 30m out of the sea, off the western extremity of the Isle of Wight and with a lighthouse perched on the furthest one.
Our cliff walk gave us a great view down into the clear water below us and the colourful cliffs behind us. The remains of an old fort occupies the furthest extremity of the cliff path and this is where you get the best views of the Needles. The National Trust charge a fiver each for this privilege but it was well worth the expense, especially on such a beautiful day.

Colourful rock formation at Alum Bay

Colourful rock formation at Alum Bay

Walking toward the Needles

Walking toward the Needles

The Needles

The Needles

Chalk Cliffs at the Needles

Chalk Cliffs at the Needles

Having photographed the Needles from every angle possible it was time to return to the carpark and on to the next attraction of the day. A short drive along the coast got us to the pretty harbour town of Yarmouth. With a bit of time to spare before lunch we had a quick look around the old town.

Yarmouth harbour

Yarmouth harbour

Lunch today was taken at a restaurant called “Off the Rails”. Positioned inside the old Yarmouth train station you are surrounded by railway memorabilia. With tables and seating spilling out onto the platform and everything having a railway theme, the enjoyment began even before you had considered what to eat and drink. From that point onwards, the experience got even better. The food was superb and the drinks pretty good as well. Fully satisfied, there was just time to admire the scenery from the platform before heading back to the cottage.

Outside "Off the Rails"

Outside "Off the Rails"

Insight "Off the Rails" restaurant

Insight "Off the Rails" restaurant

The sun was still shinning when we arrived back at the cottage. We decided to take advantage and settled into a bit of a boozy session on the elevated decking in our garden.

Martyn and Jane left us on the following day. After dropping them off at the hoverport we made our way to Carisbrooke Castle (see below) for a bit of history. Carisbrooke is an imposing castle perched on high ground overlooking the village. We entered through the gate house and spent a good couple of hours exploring its inner building and ramparts whilst taking in the history as we progressed.
By now, all this history had built up a thirst so we retreated to the Pointer Inn for a mid-afternoon drink.

Carisbrooke Castle

Carisbrooke Castle

Carisbrooke Castle

Carisbrooke Castle

Our last day on the island should have been a speedy pack, then off to catch the 10:40 ferry. But as with our outwards journey we had been moved to a later ferry. This made for a more leisurely start to the day and created the opportunity to explore more of the island.
We first went back to the delightful coastal village of Yarmouth to see its castle. As castles go this was one of the smallest I have been in. Tucked away amongst period houses, it commands a great view across the Solent (stretch of water that divides the island from the mainland). Its position was strategic to defend this part of the English coastline from attack. Gun placements, with a varying degree of sophistication, were present here from 16th to 19th century. The castle was then brought back into military use again during both the First and Second World Wars.

Due to its size, Yarmouth Castle didn’t take long to look around, this meant there was time for another stop before lunch. That stop was Mottistone Gardens. The gardens are set in an “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” and from its elevated position, allows a view all the way to the southern coastline. We spent an hour or so strolling amongst the blooms and foliage before heading to our favourite pub for a late lunch.

Mottistone Gardens

Mottistone Gardens

A delicious and leisurely lunch then followed at the Pointer Inn before making our way to the ferry port. Upon arrival we were informed that our delayed sailing had been delayed further by more mechanical gremlins. Finally around 17:00 we set sail for the short journey back to the mainland, only to be be delayed further by a cruise liner leaving Portsmouth harbour. Back on the mainland it was just short drive to Hove and the completion of our visit to the Isle of Wight.

Leaving Isle of Wight

Leaving Isle of Wight

Arriving back in Porstmouth

Arriving back in Porstmouth

Great cruise ship delaying our arrival in Portsmouth

Great cruise ship delaying our arrival in Portsmouth

Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

The Needles
The formation takes its name from a fourth needle-shaped pillar called Lot’s Wife, which collapsed in a storm in 1764. The remaining rocks are not at all needle-like, but the name has stuck. The Needles' pointed shape is a result of their unusual geology. The strata have been so heavily folded over time that the chalk is near vertical. This chalk outcrop runs through the centre of the Island from Culvers Cliff in the east to the Needles in the west, and then continues under the sea to the Isle of Purbeck on the mainland. The whole stretch is a marine conservation area.

The Needles

The Needles

Carisbrooke Castle
A ruined wall at the site suggests that there was a building there in late Roman times. Chronicles indicate that the cousin of Anglo-Saxon King Cynric of Wessex, died in AD 544, and was buried there. It became an Anglo-Saxon stronghold during the 8th century and a wall was built around the hill as a defence against Viking raids around AD 1000.
From 1100 the castle remained in the possession of the Redvers’ family, and over the next two centuries improvement were made to the castle including stone walls, towers and a keep. In 1293 the castle was sold to Edward I. From then on, its governance was entrusted to wardens as representatives of the crown.
In 1377, in the reign of Richard II the castle was unsuccessfully attacked by the French. It was reputedly saved by local hero Peter de Heyno who shot the French commander.
The castle continue to be improved and fortified over the next few centuries including the bowling green used by Charles I during his imprisonment. Charles I was imprisoned here for fourteen months before his execution in 1649.
From 1896 to 1944, it was the home of Princess Beatrice, daughter of Queen Victoria as Governor of the Isle of Wight.

Carisbrooke Castle

Carisbrooke Castle

Posted by MAd4travel 13:33 Archived in England Comments (1)

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